Goodloe Byron could be considered an idiosyncratic fellow: of the three books he has published, REVISIONS OF, THE ABSTRACT, and THE WRAITH, not a one is available in stores, but out on the streets. That’s not said in some cliché, from the street attitude, no, he’s given away thousands of copies of his books either at literary conferences or standing on a busy street corner. Further, he stumbled his way into graphic design, a field he’s excelled in. Now, he’s playing the blues.
When I got his CD, THE MONSTROUS BLUES, in the mail late last week, I wasn’t too sure what to think going in. Considering the blues, you have a sort of expectation that comes with the genre, same as any other. You can’t help but think of Robert (or Tommy, unrelated) Johnson selling his soul to the Devil for the ability to play that guitar as well as he could. You think of Blind Lemon Jefferson and BB King and Muddy Waters and even old Stagger Lee. You think of white boys emulating Stevie Ray Vaughan until their music doesn’t have any soul of its own.
All those expectations, they came up when I put in this CD, but once Byron started in on I’ll Wait Outside, I knew he’d hit his own edge on the genre. With deceptively simple chords and a voice like something out of Ween, he tells story of theft and friendship. Next comes Ain’t For Me, and he shifts things up. Things go slower, his voice more like Scott Walker. Later tracks, such as The Flood, hit closer to the preconception one would have of the blues, but Byron never falls back on played out tricks that long since lost their relevance. He tells stories that are funny and heartbreaking in the space of a stanza.
Perhaps you could consider THE MONSTROUS BLUES folk or anti-folk or indie rock, but that doesn’t matter. Putting these songs in a box doesn’t do anything but make you listen to them with undue expectations, and if you do so, well, you might just ignore how great these rough little nuggets of life are.